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Berchelt-Valdez, Broner comeback, Avanesyan-Kelly: A quick guide to Saturday’s fights

We’ve got a packed lineup on Saturday with some good fights and notable names in action.

Luis Perez/AFP via Getty Images and Christian Petersen/Getty Images

For now (anything can happen in 48 hours anymore), we’ve got a full slate of fights on Saturday, including Miguel Berchelt vs Oscar Valdez in a highly-anticipated clash, Adrien Broner’s return after two years out of the ring, and the long-awaited David Avanesyan vs Josh Kelly bout from London.

We’ll have predictions for five of these fights on Friday morning, plus full live coverage for all of these cards on Saturday.

But for today, here’s a quick look at what’s coming on Saturday if you’re sort of half-in, half-out as a boxing fan or maybe new to the sport or whatever else.

David Avanesyan vs Josh Kelly

  • Saturday, Feb. 20, DAZN (Sky Sports UK)
  • 2 pm ET (7 pm UK)

What’s At Stake: Avanesyan’s European title is the physical property on the line, but it’s bigger than that for these guys. The Russian veteran wants to get back into the world title scene, and has to beat Josh Kelly to do that; a loss here, and those dreams are probably about over with. As for Kelly, he’s been a hyped prospect with mixed results and perception from fans and media, if he wants to keep moving forward, he needs this win.

Why You Should Care: This was once just gonna be a fight on a Kell Brook undercard in Sheffield back in Dec. 2018. It was a tough step-up bout for Kelly, a good chance for Avanesyan to make some noise again. Kelly pulled out on fight day claiming illness, and the Avanesyan side have long contended he just didn’t want to fight (which obviously Kelly denies). After Avanesyan went on a tear in Spain and won the European belt, it got rescheduled for Mar. 2020, which obviously fell through. Then it was Jan. 2021, which obviously fell through. But here we are. There’s a lot of heat on this fight considering it’s not like it’s some blockbuster. And it could be a really good, intriguing matchup, too. Avanesyan is basic but very effective at what he does, and may be peaking in his career, while Kelly has the flash and skills, but there is the lingering thought he’s going to be badly exposed at some point or other.

Undercard: Nothing big, but some solid matchups. Florian Marku takes on Rylan Charlton in a matchup of unbeaten welterweights, Robbie Davies Jr returns against Gabriel Valenzuela in a fight that has at least some hint of Warrington-Lara matchmaking, heavyweight Johnny Fisher debuts against Matt Gordon, and Jordan Gill meets veteran Cesar Juarez in a featherweight bout.

Adrien Broner vs Jovanie Santiago

  • Saturday, Feb. 20, Showtime
  • 9 pm ET

What’s At Stake: Not much, other than Broner’s reputation. A loss here would be tough to come back from as a star fighter, and the “star” status for Broner is currently more questionable than it’s been since he hit HBO airwaves a decade ago. Well, let’s not count out Santiago totally, the Puerto Rican has nothing to lose but a world of opportunities to gain if he gets an upset.

Why You Should Care: If you don’t care about Broner, you shouldn’t, I guess. But AB has always drawn interest — it’s love him or hate him, truly, but people have always tuned in to see him fight. He’s had the “it” factor either way for a long time. That said, it’s been two years since he last fought, and his “recent” (they’re not that recent) performances haven’t been much to get excited over, to say the least. This is a test to see if Broner honestly wants to box, if he can even make it look like he does. On paper, Santiago should not be a threat, but he’s one of those guys with so little on his record that it’s a pure guessing game. Broner has been inactive, just had to crash down in weight — we’ll see how AB responds to a live fight.

Undercard: A solid heavyweight matchup between Otto Wallin, who really might be a contender, and Dominic Breazeale, a power-punching former title challenger who wants to keep hanging around, and to do so needs a win here. Also former lightweight titlist Robert Easter Jr taking on Ryan Martin, two more guys that really can’t afford a loss right now, and for Martin, this is a chance to sort of make up for a really lousy performance against Josh Taylor in his one step-up fight. Josh Taylor’s a terrific fighter. Easter will give us more of a gauge on what Martin is or isn’t.

Miguel Berchelt vs Oscar Valdez

  • Saturday, Feb. 20, ESPN and ESPN+
  • 6:45 pm ET for undercards, 10 pm ET for main card

What’s At Stake: Berchelt’s WBC junior lightweight title is up for grabs, and a lot of pride between two guys who are competitive, determined, and are friendly with one another away from the ring, but that isn’t going to carry over between the bells.

Why You Should Care: It’s a great matchup on paper, both in terms of it being relevant — Berchelt is No. 1 at 130 for most, with only Tank Davis having any strong argument right now, and Valdez is a former featherweight titlist and top 5/10 type guy at 130, too. And as far as the style matchup? Valdez has tried to box more in recent fights with trainer Eddy Reynoso, but he’s got monster warrior guts and spirit, and that’s going to get dragged out of him here, most likely. Any fight can be a letdown, certainly, but on paper this has Fight of the Year ingredients. To me, this is must-see boxing.

Undercard: 130/135-pound prospect Gabriel Flores Jr takes a solid next step in his young career against veteran gatekeeper Jayson Velez in the co-feature. On the prelim undercard bouts, middleweight “contender” Esquiva Falcao will, at 31, dare to dream in the toughest fight of his seven-year pro career, risking it all for glory and fame against Artur Akavov, ranked No. 115 in the world by BoxRec. I think Akavov is better than that ranking, but at the pace he’s cut as a pro, Falcao seems intent on making a run at a title sometime around 2030; if his pattern sticks, and you consider Akavov a step up, then expect Falcao to stay at this step for about five more years before taking another. Actual exciting 140-pound prospect Elvis Rodriguez is in action, plus welterweight Xander Zayas, junior lightweight Bryan Lua, heavyweight Sonny Conto, and others.

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